Oxford History: City Wall


North wall, with Bastions 4 & 5, between Ship St and Broad St

Broad Street was just outside the city, and the line of the north wall is preserved by the boundary separating properties on the north side of Ship Street from those on the south side of Broad Street.

There used to be a lane outside the city wall, and then a deep man-made moat or ditch (known as the Candida Fossa or Canditch) which ran along the back of the present shops on the south side of Broad Street and also along the present George Street, thus completing a circuit of flowing water around the city walls.

Bastion 4

This bastion, which survives at the rear of Jesus College's Bastion Building at 2 Ship Street, used to be a highlight of the ttrain ride of the Oxford Story that between 1986 and 200 operated from the current Mountain Warehouse next to the former Boswell's shop (the Store Hotel).

Known as the Martyrs’ bastion, it may mark the spot where Cranmer stood to observe the burning of Ridley and Latimer nearby in Broad Street. It is a Grade I listed structure (List Entry No. 1184408). The two photographs below show this bastion in 1907:

Historic England HT10593:

Historic England CC51/00441:

In recent times this bastion could be seen from Broad Street when the gate to the yard of the former Boswell's shop was open:


Below is the view of this bastion from Jesus College's Bastion Building (private property) in Ship Street:

Bastion 4 from Jesus's Bastion Building

The engraving below shows this bastion in 1834, when it was visible from Miss Hoskyns’s garden in Broad Street. (The 1841 census shows Miss Hoskins [sic] living at the south-west end of Broad Street.)

Miss Hoskins' bastion

Bastion 5

This survives at the back boundary of 17 Broad Street (now Oxfam) and 14–15 Ship Street (the appropriately named Tower House Hotel), and is part of the latter's kitchen. It is a Grade II listed structure (List Entry No. 1047090).

The photograph below (Historic England CC51/00437) taken in 1905 shows a brick building on the foundations and lower wall of this medieval bastion:

Photograph taken from the Bodleian Library showing excavations of the city wall at 17 Broad Street (Historic England CC51/00434):

Broad from hub

The wall to the east of Bastion 5

The photograph on the right, taken from the Hub on the corner of Ship Street and Turl Street, looks down on the outdoor seating area of Morton's Café at No. 22. It shows a small portion of the city wall to the east of Bastion 5.

Twirling postern gate

At the end of Ship Street was the twirling postern gate in the wall (designed to keep cattle out of the town) that gave Turl Street its name. It was demolished in 1722.

From Turl Street to the Smith Gate at Catte Street

The continuation of the wall to the south of Broad Street after the junction with Turl Street has completely disappeared because of the large and important buildings that were built straddling its line, namely Exeter College, the Museum of the History of Science, and the Sheldonian Theatre.

The drawing below is taken from an article entitled “Excavations in the Clarendon Quadrangle” published in Jackson's Oxford Journal on 18 November 1899:

Route of wall behind the Clarendon Building

It shows how the wall turned north-east to meet the present Catte Street opposite the Smith Gate.

Next: Smith Gate in Catte Street Next

© Stephanie Jenkins

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